Friday, January 11, 2008

Words, Like Violence, Break the Silence

For those who've missed it, a job market horror story's developing. In comments, Anon. 12:01 points us to the wiki, where we find this update about Mount Ida college: "Contact specifying that certain candidates were contacted in error and are not on the short list (1/10)".

What now? Let's go over this slowly. This department contacted some people, telling them they were on a shortlist for fly-outs. I can't say for sure how those people felt about that, but my guess is they were fucking elated. You know, because they'd managed to stave off failure for another month, and maybe, just maybe they'd have a real shot at employment come September. You know that's called? It's called hope. I can remember what it feels like. I feels like almost the best thing in the entire fucking world.

Then what? "Contact specifying that certain candidates were contacted in error." Or as Anon. 9:16 reports:
It's actually worse than that. I got an email saying only that I should call the number below for information updating me on the philosophy search. I called the number and left a message within minutes of leaving the message. So she wasn't answering her phone immediately after sending the email. Then I tried calling again at intervals of 10-20 minutes for the rest of the day. Sometimes it rang once and went to voicemail. Sometimes it rang a number of times and went to voicemail. I never got a living person. This suggests to me that they might actually have sent these short list messages out to a pretty large group, if she was tied up on the phone all day explaining it to them. I still haven't gotten confirmation that I was sent the message erroneously, but I'm assuming that's why I was contacted.

"You know that hope we just gave you? Yeah. . . not so much, actually. We're just going to take that right back. Thanks so much." Holy fucking god, I can't believe how much that sucks. Will Philosophize for Food got the same shit:

Yeah, tell me about it. I was the one who got the disappointing news and posted it. Apparently a screw up by the Administrative Assistant in the Office of Human Resources, who sent email(s) to the wrong person(s). And I was really staking my self-worth on that--it being my only other interview.

I got drunk last night.

That sounds about right. On the job market, there isn't a whole fuck of a room between hope and drinking to cope.


Pseudonymous Grad Student said...

A further update just came in from Anon. 12:37 in the other thread, but I'll copy it over here too, so people can see it:

"I finally got through to the human resources director at Mount Ida. They had two lists, an A-list and a B-list. The A-list gets phone interviews. the move to the B-list if the people on the A-list don't work out. The B-list was accidentally sent emails indicating they were on the short list and were getting phone interviews. These people are on the long short list but will not get phone interviews unless they exhaust the A-list from being turned down or not liking the candidates. I didn't get any indication of how many people were involved here, but maybe someone else who has yet to get through will feel courageous enough to ask that."

Anonymous said...

After such a massive screw-up, would you prefer that they just also phone-interviewed the B-list, even if they would likely not hire them? That seems to extend hope where this is little or none, and so it might be less humane than owning up to the error. It still sucks...sorry...

Anonymous said...

It looks like whoever just updated the wiki on Mount Ida inadvertently deleted the boldface title for Mount St. Mary's University by making the entry go to two lines (typing over the next line, MSM U. Is that what happened?

will philosophize for food said...

Minor correction: it wasn't for a flyout, it was for a phone interview. They did not do initial interviews at the APA.

Although my hopes would have been crushed far more if it had been for a flyout, the fact that it was for an interview means that a greater number of people may have been affected (as many as 12-15 as it seems now, rather than just 2-3). Is there a Bentham scholar that can calculate the dis-utility of that for me?

anon said...

They are still rocking the passive voice. Just got this:

"I write to inform you that you are among those whose application the Department of Philosophy is no longer considering in connection with our search"

Anonymous said...

yeah, lousy situation and all, but it's better in one way that it was only phone interviews that are at issue, rather than fly-outs.

i.e., no plane tickets to try to return.

Anonymous said...

Accidents will happen ; don't dwell on this.

Anonymous said...

where's the passive voice in that PFO?

Anonymous said...

"Accidents will happen ; don't dwell on this."

Did anyone claim it was not an accident or that accidents do not happen? Why not dwell on this?

Do you think someone with a job, or with interviews, or from a certain school would respond by posting the quoted comment above?

Anonymous said...

The reason you shouldn't dwell on this situation is that it's highly unproductive in terms of your time as well as mental health. You can damn the gods or even the department all you want, but that won't lead to anything (unless you're prepared to sue, in which case you may need to show more than emotional distress; but I doubt anyone affected here had, say, turned down another interview or job offer on the basis of the erroneous invitation for a phone interview with Mt. Ida.)

Instead, chalk it up to human error and get on with finishing your dissertation or job talk. Whining about honest mistakes or bad luck is gratuitous and says something about one's disposition. Shake it off and move on.

Finally, what's wrong with using a passive voice every now and then? Would you prefer a world in which everyone used the more aggressive active voice? Sometimes, the passive voice is called for, such as "accidents will happen" to underscore the futility in complaining or placing blame.

Anonymous said...

"Whining about honest mistakes or bad luck is gratuitous and says something about one's disposition. Shake it off and move on."

Be careful about trusting balanced, adjusted people who do not whine about honest mistakes or bad luck. Be extra careful about trusting people who tell strangers not to whine about honest mistakes and bad luck.

Of course, different things work for different people about how to move on in a constructive and productive manner. The dynamics of the job market and the stakes discussed on this blog make a fair amount of whining perfectly appropriate, in my humble opinion.

Anonymous said...

"Whining about honest mistakes or bad luck is gratuitous and says something about one's disposition. Shake it off and move on."

Perhaps you should post these institutionalized-man-serving comments elsewhere. Homey don't play that.

Anonymous said...

This is terrible. As long as we're dwelling on the negative, how about some recollections of the "Worst. Interview. Ever."?

Prof. J. said...

As I think I noted in an earlier thread, this blog is partly for venting, so I don't think it's proper to chide anyone for 'whining', etc.

Oh, and the passive voice is underrated, and anyway as 2:58 politely pointed out, there isn't any passive voice in the passage quoted.

Anonymous said...

Venting a bit is one thing; whining or being overly negative is quite another matter and not conducive to the positive attitude one needs to keep momentum going in one's work, especially when we're talking about a marathon like writing your dissertation or applying for philosophy jobs.

Of course, it might be unfair to call this blog (or this thread) overly negative, since it could just be many people each venting a little, rather than few people ranting over 14 or so posts so far on this thread...

Anonymous said...

It may not be the passive voice but it's still passive -- as if, oops, somehow or other Applicant landed up in the wrong group.

What I like about it is that it's at least still positive: Applicant *is* a member of a group, just one that is not being considered, as opposed to Applicant *not* being a member of the group that is being considered.

You haven't lost, you've just won negatively!

Anonymous said...

Why does anyone care about "Mount Ida. College/University" (never heard of them)? If you're praying for an interview there, then I suppose you're scraping the bottom of the barrel so, yes, finding out your interview invitation was rescinded might be the worst thing in your life. But I agree with a previous post: walk it off and get back to work.

Anonymous said...

"accidents will happen" is not passive voice either.

Anonymous said...

Geeze, I wish Homey were here with a good sized sock.

Anonymous said...


yeah and this douchebag having heard of something is the ultimate validation.

Anonymous said...

"Of course, it might be unfair to call this blog (or this thread) overly negative, since it could just be many people each venting a little, rather than few people ranting over 14 or so posts so far on this thread..."

Bop. Homey don't play that.

Anonymous said...

"Why does anyone care about "Mount Ida. College/University" (never heard of them)?...But I agree with a previous post: walk it off and get back to work."

Bop. Homey don't play that.

Anonymous said...


Yeah, what loser would want a tenure-track job in a nice Boston suburb 15-minutes from downtown?


Anonymous said...

May I change the subject? We just spent two days on campus with a candidate who did not ask a single question about the university, the city, his potential colleagues, or their research interests. Yes, you are here to sell yourselves, but that involves not only telling us about what you can do, but also demonstrating that you have some interests outside your own research. Please consider this when you get the coveted "fly out", which I hope you all do.

Anonymous said...

If location to a big, cool city is your main criterion, there are plenty of community and no-name colleges that I'm sure are hiring and hadn't posted APA ads.

Maybe that's more in your league, Homey and douchebag. From your bitterness (which is not becoming of grad students), I bet I can spot your type right away and wouldn't give you an interview either. Try taking yourself out of the applicant pool and look into a career in which you don't need to deal at all with people.

Pseudonymous Grad Student said...

"bitterness (which is not becoming of grad students)"

It's amazing how clear the sniffy resentment of "uppity" grad students is in these threads. I really can't figure out where it comes from, except a very small person's need to always make sure those lower than him on the hierarchy are always kept in their place.

But the real point is, if you don't want to hear grad students kvetching, don't hang out at the bar with the grad students after midnight and don't read this blog. That'll solve your problem.

Uncle Milty said...

No one need worry about Douche and Homey. Just by their use of names and name-calling, we can conclude that Douche is approximately 8-10 years old and Homey the Clown has time travelled from 1990.

And for all of those Mount Ida alums, my apologies, but any school which has, in addition to its School of Arts and Sciences, the New England Institute of Funeral Service Education might not be the best final resting place for one's career. Yowsa!

Anonymous said...

"your bitterness (which is not becoming of grad students)"

9:06 --

Where do you go to school? It sounds nice!

Anonymous said...

Plenty of intelligent, successful 30+ year old philosophers don't hesitate to call someone a douchebag when it's called for. I feel sorry for those who think they're too good for the wonderful word 'douchebag', you're missing out.

And for the record, the reason 8:24is a douchebag is that he's kicking people when they're down. People who are unsuccessful on the job market have enough self-worth problems already, there's no need to chide them for "scraping the bottom of the barrel."

Anonymous said...


So the kind of person you think people would like to hire is someone who openly mocks people for wanting a job they don't think is worth wanting? Yeah that's an attractive character trait.

And for what it's worth I'm doing just fine on the job market, I'm not bitter about much of anything, and yet I think you're a douchebag.

Anonymous said...

'Douchebag' isn't the right word. 'Asshole' is. It's really hard to believe how classless some people are.

Anonymous said...

Uncle Milty:

What's wrong with having a funeral services program? As a dead person I would have imagined that the importance of qualified funeral directors and restoration artists would not be lost on you.


Anonymous said...

"Maybe that's more in your league, Homey and douchebag. From your bitterness (which is not becoming of grad students), I bet I can spot your type right away and wouldn't give you an interview either. Try taking yourself out of the applicant pool and look into a career in which you don't need to deal at all with people."

Wow, get some perspective. These people just spent the last six or more years with their lives largely on hold. They're facing an extremely unpromising job market. Moreover, they're contending with a system of higher education that is farming out positions to adjuncts, thereby diminishing the potential number of full time positions. Chances are they do not currently have health insurance or a livable wage. There is a likelihood that a number of the candidates will ultimately have to shift careers because of not getting a position, beginning their lives six years behind those of their peers who did not go to graduate school. Many of them will tough it out doing adjunct work, but will not have enough time to do research because, well, they have to put food on the table. As a result, if they are lucky enough to get a full time position it will not, in all likelihood, be at a marquis institution. I suspect that ANY position at even a four year school is looking pretty attractive right about now.

Frankly, and with all due respect, any academic with a position that goes about mocking and blaming the candidates is a first rate asshole. They reveal that they are completely unaware of the job situation and constitutively unable to place themselves in the shoes of the candidates so as to see the terrible existential crisis so many on the market are facing. Have a little perspective and consider the horizon from within which such utterances are made.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to break up the e-barbing, but I wanted to share with ya'll that I bit the bullet and contacted the schools that I hadn't heard about oncampus interviews yet. Some of them sent me word about their status with no problem. For example, they'd say something like, 'unfortunately we have invited out some other candidates but we enjoyed our interview with you. It happens often that we will need to invite out other candidates and so you still have a chance.' I figured that it merely shows that I'm still really interested in the position, which I am.

Anonymous said...

This is my first time commenting on this blog (which by the way is very helpful). I think both 'sides' have a point. First of all, it IS true that sitting around and projecting 'negative' intentions towards whatever the object may be, is EXTREMELY exhausting and energy consuming. At some point one has to ask themselves when they are venting, or when they have allowed themselves to be dragged into an attitude which essentially gets you nowhere. On the other side of things a little bit of venting DOES make one feel better. My solution as the Buddhist/Taoist/Phenemonlogist that I am? Learn how to approach life, identity, and jobs with a much less 'this is it or I'm nothing attitude.' Further, letting go of these kinds of attitudes does not mean one has to give up effort or the drive towards a telos. It is a matter of a shift in attitude or an approach to life. By the way, I'm a broke, 5 class a semester, just finishing up dissertation guy as well, who works 7 days a week. Why is it that this, coupled with the job-search, HAS to somehow make me into a miserable human being?

Anonymous said...

I recently landed a decent TT job and so am not too far removed from those currently in graduate school. And I would agree that there is too much toxic-complaining and bitterness here (as opposed to the more constructive type of venting). Most of my colleagues, as well as myself, didn't have this poor attitude in graduate school, and the market was arguably a bit worse than it is now. So previous generations of philosophers do have it right when they make that observation, even if they've forgotten what it's like on the market or how the market has changed.

At the end of the day, we/you as graduate students have ASSUMED THE RISK of being unemployed or struggling to find a job before you even entered your PhD studies. If you didn't know, then that seems foolish or worse. When one assumes a certain risk, it's bad form to complain if that risk becomes an actual problem.

So vent a little if you need. But when you start with childish name-calling, then THAT is what's classless and, I agree, grounds to disqualify a candidate who would ultimately be in charge of potentially hundreds of young minds.

Bill & Ted said...

Mount Ida football rulez!!

James said...

Anon 12:56,

Did you share this info you received on the wiki? If so, thanks!

If not, would you mind doing so?

Anonymous said...

Good observations, 1:09. Ironically, this sort of practical advice seems lost on many people here who are intent on feeling sorry for themselves. It's surprising to see how decidely _un-enlightened_ some aspiring philosophers are. I guess a "personal philosophy" isn't as important as whatever deep questions they are studying...

Anonymous said...


I didn't update anything on the wiki because they were already listed as having invited candidates. I suppose that I could have put on there that they have contacted all the candidates for this round.

Anonymous said...

Who said Mount Ida would be the *final* resting place? Everyone I know gets the advice that they need to get a job first, and publish their way into a better one.

People from top 15 departments with multiple publications and over a dozen independently taught classes are lucky, in this market, to get tt jobs at state schools I've never heard of. I know this because last year, most of them didn't get any offers at all, and went around again. Two went to schools that rang no bells. And one took a VAP at a school I had actually heard of before.

I love that there are complaints that we're too picky, next to complaints that we're not picky enough. Can't win for losing, which is kinda the point of the blog.

James said...

Thanks Anon 12:56, that makes sense! I thought you were calling schools who haven't moved down the board yet.

Anonymous said...

2:43 said "I love that there are complaints that we're too picky, next to complaints that we're not picky enough."

I don't see a contradiction here. Yes, some "top" philosophers are too focused on perceived prestige of an institution, ignoring more relevant factors in their expected well-being at said institution. And other philosophers are not picky enough, opting for an impersonal "shotgun" approach of sending out 30, 50, even 100 applications instead of training a laser-focus on some of the more likely possibilities for employment. Something in between these two extremes would seem more reasonable, and maybe that what the bulk of philosophy job applicants are doing?

Ideally, you would apply--and get-- the job you really want. But, yes, sometimes you need to accept a stepping-stone position. Good luck to everyone here.

Anonymous said...

This blog has become too popular. It's like the first time you go to see an indie band, and the crowd is really cool. Then the band becomes more well known, and the next time you see them, the crowd is filled with frat guys and random douchebags. The frat guys have shown up.

The uppity grad students are hilarious though. They think they are Kant. The truth is, in 50 years, odds are their work won't be read. It will be as if they never existed.

Anonymous said...

I've watched this blog since close to its beginning. I wouldn't call the readers then as "cool"; rather they're more like simply philosophy me. (Of course, dorks tend to think of themselves as "cool". It's all relative.)

Further, this profession and *any other* profession has its "frat guys" and "douchebags", so excluding those categories shows denial or a misunderstanding of how the profession really is.

If JS Mill is right, then we should welcome a diversity of opinions here. The best ones, the truth, will hopefully rise to the top. But censorship has never been a productive long-term strategy.

I especially like (and by "like", I mean "pity") the commentators who blast more senior philosophers for their advice and thoughts, at least the more reasonable and civil ones. Some people just don't recognize help when it's given.

Anonymous said...

3:08 -

50 years?? Try 5 years. The reality is that we publish mainly for our peers, often in obscure journals. And even the top journals in philosophy don't have the circulation or influence as those in other fields. Given the rate of new papers published around the world, your/our papers will quickly become old news, if even read carefully at all.

Anonymous said...

To the institutionalized-man-serving commenters here: Homey lives. Homey lives on in the hearts and minds of people who do not think and write as you do.

I do not see any decent evidence here about whether any particular commenters are being 'too negative' or whatever. How could the readers of the blog know whether venting that appears here is healthy or unhealthy, too negative or sufficiently constructive? If they cannot know such things, what does it say about the insulting and presumptuous comments made about those who whine here? It took me about 20 seconds to type my whine-comment here. I, for one, did not bother to indicate in any way how I spend the other 23 hours and 59 minutes of the day.

It is nice when people (grad students, SC members, or whoever) post helpful information. Cool. But why not leave alone approved comments that seem to some to express some degree of whining?

lambda lambda lambda said...

Why would a frat boy bother to visit this blog (which is highly cathartic and entertaining to me, at least)? There are no beers or boobs here. And if there are, please let me know where.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

This is absurd:

"So vent a little if you need. But when you start with childish name-calling, then THAT is what's classless and, I agree, grounds to disqualify a candidate who would ultimately be in charge of potentially hundreds of young minds."

They're complaining ANONYMOUSLY on a blog. I highly doubt they're going to interviews or class complaining like this. Of course people are going to vent when they're wondering where they're next meal will come from or whether all their hard work will pay off.

"At the end of the day, we/you as graduate students have ASSUMED THE RISK of being unemployed or struggling to find a job before you even entered your PhD studies. If you didn't know, then that seems foolish or worse. When one assumes a certain risk, it's bad form to complain if that risk becomes an actual problem."

Of course, but having assumed the risk doesn't make the situation any less anxiety provoking and painful for those in the midsts of it. It is strange to me that so many of us who have tenured and TT positions seem to completely lack any empathy regarding this issue.


Dear 3:33,


Dr. Killjoy said...

Just a quick point: Ummm, from a rather cursory glance at Mount Ida's webpage, it appears that they offer neither a major or a minor in philosophy. They have 3 courses listed in the catalog (Intro, ethics, aesthetics).

So the Funeral Service program is apt because places like these are where philosophers go to die. You are much better off sticking around another year in grad school or trying your luck on hte VAP market than taking the Mt. Ida job. Of course, those more interested in teaching may find Mt. Ida a fine place, but your chances of publishing out (upward rather than lateral moves) of such a place are almost nil.

In fact, if most of you had done the minimal amount of homework prior to interviews and applications, you would have saved yourself some postage and hassle.

James said...

Anon Triple-3,

Jan 30th is too soon.

Don't expect the hot shots to be wrapping things up until early March at the earliest: First HS gets offer in first week of Feb, takes a week to think or use it as negotiating tool, then passes it along to next hot shot, another week, third hot shot, another week. A month would be pretty quick when you think about it because some of the first three HS's might use a job offer for negotiating power for the full time they are told they can hold onto it. So, it might not be until April for certain jobs to become available for the second wave of candidates.

Anonymous said...

Hey Caps, no need to shout.

Anonymous said...

in response to an 12:25

“These people just spent the last six or more years with their lives largely on hold.”

That was their choice.

“They're facing an extremely unpromising job market.”

So are other people in other fields.

“Moreover, they're contending with a system of higher education that is farming out positions to adjuncts, thereby diminishing the potential number of full time positions.”

That’s the free market at work – do you have a moral entitlement to a job?

“Chances are they do not currently have health insurance or a livable wage”

18 grand year for just going to school seems pretty cushy to me.

“There is a likelihood that a number of the candidates will ultimately have to shift careers because of not getting a position, beginning their lives six years behind those of their peers who did not go to graduate school”

Again, they knew this when they started.

“Many of them will tough it out doing adjunct work, but will not have enough time to do research because, well, they have to put food on the table”

You can always teach high school English or go to law school.

“As a result, if they are lucky enough to get a full time position it will not, in all likelihood, be at a marquis institution. I suspect that ANY position at even a four year school is looking pretty attractive right about now.”

So why are people bashing mount ida?

Anonymous said...

To 3:55 -

What's so absurd about the first quote you criticize? People are not very different in their public vs. private/anonymous persona. If you're a whiny beeatch anonymously, chances are good that you're that way in work, school, everyday life as well.

Compare this to freely using the N-word in private conversations: Sure, in _some_ cases, the person is not racist, but more often than not (and arguably in ALL cases), it is indicative of latent (or blatant) prejudice. In the workplace, that prejudice can lead to real discrimination. Likewise, being a whiny grad student in private suggests that one will carry that attitude to other non-private parts of life, including how one interacts with colleagues and how one's behavior, even unintentionally, affects young minds.

Anonymous said...

Ehm... 18 grand just for going to school? As an advanced grad student, I have a 2-2 (one prep each semester), which is hardly *just* going to school. In fact, it is extremely close to what the tenured profs have, for a great deal more money.

I have to agree with anon 3:19. There are some real buttheads on here now who are neither funny nor just blowing off steam.

Pseudonymous Grad Student said...

Oh, god. I should know better than to feed the trolls, but I just can't leave some of these slow-balls hanging over the plate.

"So are other people in other fields." Right. Which is why we don't shit on their kvetching, either. What do you do, asshole?

"Again, they knew this when they started." No, for the most part they didn't. Read this blog and others to get a sense of how most humanities departments subtly distort their placement records when recruiting grad students, and more generally, how badly the profession prepares prospective grad students for thinking about the job market. Google around and find me eight--hell, even five--philosophy departments that have on their websites a clear, detailed and readable account of how many of their grads from the last five years have got tenure-track jobs, and how long it took each of them to get those jobs.

"That’s the free market at work – do you have a moral entitlement to a job?" I'm not sure the entitlement is a moral one, but yes, grad students are owed something when they've gone through 5 to n years of professional training, the conditions of which (pay, hours, weird subordination to the opaque judgment of one's superiors) are justified by the fact that it's not "just going to school", but an apprenticeship. (Is it possible to deliver on that obligation? No. But that means the profession needs to change the way it thinks about PhD programs.)

Anonymous said...

This is a great blog that I've been reading for some time. But I think a lot of the folks who read it, even though philosophers, do so for the same reason people read tabloid magazines: they love watching a train wreck, strangers bearing their souls and having breakdown in front of the camera (or computer). But that's ok and nothing to be ashamed of!

So instead of this bickering about who's whiny and who's not, it's ok to admit to being whiny, anxious, on the edge, hanging by a thread, etc. That's the point of the blog and for those who read it! (But that's just my opinion.)

Let's all move. Next topic, please?

Anonymous said...

damn some of these comments are self-absorbed and dumb. they aren't even reading the previous posts before responding to the previous posts (anon 6:21, that's you. the relevant people ren't basking mt idea, they are defending it).

you guys might want to consider, maybe not moderation, but some comment-culling until the feeding frenzy calms down. As an ABD, on the market next year, I do prefer at this stage the grad comments than the stuffed shirts who seem to think we are morons.

by no means all the professoriate are doing that, but you have some doozies which are repeat offenders, I think. let'em keep talking to themselves.

Anonymous said...

To the person who made the "18 grand a year..." and "free market..." comments,

Are you a graduate student of any kind? I get the sense you work for Citi Group.

And it is true - getting paid 12-18 grand a year (the going rate for stipends) for being a graduate student in philosophy is a sweet deal, on some level. But as it has been pointed out, teaching loads easily make that deal seem not so sweet. But regardless of that, 18 grand a year is still not a lot of money. In most cities it is JUST BARELY enough to live on. Forget things like saving for the future like our peers working in the private sector are doing. Graduate students know no 401ks.

PGS - you rock.

Anonymous said...

On PGS' last post:

This raises an interesting issue: Could one reasonably sue a university (or academic system??) for not giving full disclosure to miserable placement rates and an overly-rosy outlook on hiring? The business of recruiting more students, whether undegrad or grad, seems contrary to an unbiased and pure mission of education.

When I went to grad school, I didn't know what the job outlook was like. (Of course, back then, there was no widely-used Internet.) But I'm pretty sure it wasn't published on any university/department brochures or a warning leaflet that accompanies the application. To fill that missing market, this blog and others like it do a great service for future students to give an honest, brutal look at graduate student life and job angst. So power to the people!

...and caveat emptor.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:21 apparently you have very poor reading skills. Nothing in my original post indicated that I believe people have a moral entitlement to a job. What I was objecting to was the TONE of the original post and the unnecessary mockery of what candidates are going through. You sound like a rightwing, Randian hack in your analysis of the job market and what these candidates are going through.

As for this:

"What's so absurd about the first quote you criticize? People are not very different in their public vs. private/anonymous persona. If you're a whiny beeatch anonymously, chances are good that you're that way in work, school, everyday life as well."

I'm not even sure where to begin. What evidence are you basing this observation on? As has often been observed, people are markedly different online than they are in person. The point of my original statement was that the candidates here are venting and trying to navigate their way through the market. No doubt, in real life, they conduct themselves in a professional and responsible way.

Anonymous said...

Well, here's the thing about the jackwads who criticize those of us who use this blog as a place to vent: they think that their having gotten jobs proves their philosophical chops. But anyone who reads widely in the field will know that a lot of the best scholars are at schools way down the food chain, and anyone from a big school knows several peers who had great promise and produced good work, who were pushed out of the profession far too soon.

The most frustrating thing about reading the comments here is that so many grad students seem to accept the idea that professional success (good jobs) is a reliable sign of professional ability or performance, when of course performance is the best indicator of performance, and these are the people who are most likely to become the next generation of aforementioned jackwads.

Guy with a job others didnt want said...

To the people wondering how long it takes to trickle down through the rejections.

I was the first of three flyouts for the job I currently hold. I flew out around the 20th or maybe 25th of January.

I was neither the first, nor the second, person to be offered the job. The two in front of me took far longer than a week each to mull over their offers. I was not offered the position until around the 1st of April. No idea if this was typical--but I doubt its that rare.

Of course, by then, if I had turned down the job, I doubt they would have brought out more candidates that year, but would have probably turned the search over to the next year.

Anonymous said...

"...but yes, grad students are owed something when they've gone through 5 to n years of professional training,..."

What do we (society) owe a grad student?

Anonymous said...

Uh, I'm applying to philosophy grad schools now. So what's the upshot here: is it worth it??

juniorperson said...

"...and how long it took each of them to get those jobs."

THIS is a great point!

tt assprof said...

Anon 7:03,

You have 2-2 teaching load as a grad student, presumably still working on her dissertation?

God, are you being exploited.

Six years ago, I was paid 10k a year for three years to finish my dissertation--in a foreign country when the dollar was still strong.

Please tell us you are done with your dissertation, and this is a kind of post-grad deal you get at your school.

Otherwise I'd out the school for public disgrace.

Prof. J. said...

Nobody is morally entitled to a job. But I have grad students on the market, and I know some of the very good and deserving ones are not going to get jobs this year, and I'm sure some of those will have to leave the profession. And I feel terrible about it and for them. Not because they are 'morally entitled'.
Sure, they knew what they were getting into. Ours did. So did the soldiers I saw on tv last month who had parts of their bodies blown off. So, I guess I won't feel sorry for them either, and if they are angry or feel sorry for themselves I'll call them whiny losers. Nah, maybe not.

Here's an idea. No more general advice about how to conduct one's life, and for sure no more moralistic speechifying. Maybe there's some other blog for that?

Anonymous said...

ee cummings,

'That' is left out too often. For example, 'He told me he didn't get the job' should be 'He told me that he didn't get the job.'

Also, I found it ironic [that] you criticized my writing style by comparing me to a well established and popular American novelist.

Finally, my dissertation is done and about to be published, ironically, by a publishing company founded by Hunter S. Thompson.

Anonymous said...

Some fly-outs have been scheduled for the end of February. So some candidates presumably don't have a fly-out at their first-choice school (or one of their top-choice schools) until the end of February. Since I suspect those candidates would hold some offers until they hear from those schools, there may be 'second-choice' offers well into March or April.

Anonymous said...

"18 grand year for just going to school seems pretty cushy to me."

I have to echo the sentiments of 7:24 and say that this person can't be a graduate student. That's the problem with outsiders. They think we're "just going to school."

Anonymous said...

One thing: this anonymous fellow seems to be making some sort of claim that people who *knew* what the market was going to be like for a particular field before going in don't have room to complain (or, more accurately, vent). I understand 'room for' here is a bit vague, but I'm not sure what could replace the vague phrase that would make it follow from *knowing* what the market would be like.

Pseudonymous Grad Student said...

Anon. 8:01 #1 --

My bad, for obscuring my meaning by using the passive voice. I make no claims about what society owes grad students. But I do think the current structure of the humanities in America is writing checks to grad students it's butt can't cash. A lot of people are getting an "apprenticeship" in a profession they'll never work in. But there's no way to just make more jobs, so (IMHO) the right thing to do would be to train fewer grad students. I.e., take (to pick a random number out of my ass) the bottom quarter of PhD programs in philosophy, and turn them into terminal MA programs. But that's a rant for another time.

Anon. 8:01 #2 --

That's a fraught question. We'll come back to it here here as April acceptance deadlines approach. For now, my basic advice is this. Go to grad school in philosophy only if you satisfy all three of these conditions:

(i) You have no problem having little to no say over where you live for most of your life;

(ii) You know you'll never fall in love with someone who will have a problem having little or no say over where they live for most of their life;

(iii) You're going to a department that's in at least the top 30 or 40.

As I've said before, it's possible for philosophy work as your career even if you can't satisfy all three of these conditions. However, if you don't satisfy all three of those conditions, you're going to be bucking the odds to make philosophy work as a career--i.e., you don't have a reasonable expectation of being able to make philosophy work as a career.

There's also important considerations when you know exactly which departments you're considering, especially consideratioms about their placement records. But that all comes later.

No doubt others will give different advice, and mine's not necessarily worth an more than you paid for it. Just my take on it.

Anonymous said...

Outing a school that does what almost all U.S. graduate institutions does isn't going to be a public disgrace. Are you really that unaware of what most grad students face?

My understanding of what happens at my institution is that it's pretty typical for a bottom-half Leiter-ranked department. Those who get funding get promised five years if we don't have a masters and four years if we do. The few who get fellowships have to teach for three years and have two years of no teaching. If they have a masters, they lose a year of teaching. Those with TA-ships the whole time have 2-3 years as a TA (75 students to grade and 3 discussion sections) and 2-3 years teaching 2 sections of a writing-intensive class. The fortunate get a sixth year of funding. After that it's adjuncting for $2000 to $3500 per class (depending on which institutions in the area have courses available), and most who do that usually do two to five classes at even lower pay than a graduate stipend. Hardly anyone finishes in five or even six years, and there are some who have been around for more than ten. Four current students are still ABD after more than a decade in the program, and two of them are on the market this year. Those two both have families to support.

Mount Ida would have looked pretty good to a candidate in that position compared to another year of supporting a family on $2000 per course. One candidate in this position was in the group contacted by them and then told it was a mistake. This is someone who had four APA interviews, none of whom have gotten back to him (two are still listed without campus interviews, but they both said either the second week of January (which is now past) or about two weeks from the APA (which is just about up).

So those who think taking another year and simply doing it all over again is a better option than Mount Ida have an extremely limited perspective. If you're single and can survive on adjunct pay for a year or have some other means of supporting yourself without difficulty, then I can see how Mount Ida would be worse than trying for something better the next year. It is fairly low pay for the area judging by the Chronicle's information. $40,000 in a suburb of Boston would make it very difficult to buy a house that can hold a decent size family. But isn't it better than $15,000 and more debt without the possibility of subsidized loans?

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know where people who teach philosophy in community colleges typically receive their training? (Top 30-40 programs? Do they require PhDs?)

Anonymous said...

tt assprof @ 8:38pm:

The exploitation you point to is very common in the less leiteriffic schools. At my grad school, I've taught a 2-2 load for two years, in addition to teaching over the summer, while writing my dissertation. And this isn't something I merely volunteered to do. It's part of my stipend. Which means that if I don't teach a 2-2 load, my money is taken away. This is far from cushy, especially considering that my stipend is LESS than $17,000/year.

So, there really are graduate students with stipends who teach a lot, make barely any money, and write their dissertation all at the same time.

There are also people I know who don't have stipends, but teach 3 to 4 courses a semester as an adjunct at schools that are within a fifty mile radius from each other, and who are writing their dissertations.

Anonymous said...

Getting back to the original post (sorta) does anyone know why LSU is running ist search as it is 9with a late application deadline and no APA interviews)?

Is this basically a search for someone they already have in mind? Or is it just a screwed up search? Or am I missing something?

Anyone from LSU here?

Anonymous said...

tt assprof - anon 7:03 here. I'm not done; my deal is the de facto for ABDs in my program. Though in fairness I should also add that we have health insurance.

Am I underpaid for the work and highly motivated to graduate? Yes. But, and this may be mild Stockholm syndrome, I don't feel exploited. Perhaps the difference is that I have adjuncted and *that* was exploitation in a big way.

Anonymous said...


I partially agree, although I am in a program that is below 40, or not even ranked and I had 10 APAs, and 2 flyouts so far.

If I would have taken your advice, I wouldn't have had the opportunities that I've had. The Leiter report undermines this notion because it narrrowly defines philosophy, but some people really are born philosophers and will do philosophy no matter what.

Anonymous said...

Dear PGS,

Re: your advice to 8:01 #2, I would mostly agree, except for:

(iii) Why does it matter that a dept should be in the top 30 or 40? Other departments are also hiring, so that seems to be the only relevant factor here. Maybe you're thinking about the continuing viability of a program/dept? Yes, a strong reputation helps with that, but I think even "lesser ranked" departments will continue to have a place in education and therefore are not going anywhere anytime soon.

And I would add:

(iv) You must LOVE to do philosophy, its (mostly) solitary life, the publish-or-perish game, and other aspects of academic life. So know what you're getting into.

(v) You have the mental stamina for years of graduate study, to excel so that you will have a realistic shot at a job.

Good luck, all.

hadot said...

All of this - and I emphasize the phrase - makes me incredibly sad. Philosophy is a way of life. Do it because you love it or don't do it at all. Fuck being an academic star. Fuck being "famous." Fuck all of it. If you're like me, you just want to do what you love, and you want to do what you love because it's how you live, it's who you are. As long as I have SOME opportunity SOMEWHERE to teach, do at least a little bit of writing here and there, AND pay the bills, fuck everything else. Fuck what "the profession" (or the elites within "the profession") thinks about me, my work, where I teach, etc. I just want to do what I want to do. If it's not good enough for you, fuck off. All of this careerist bullshit is a betrayal of philosophy. All talk of "the profession", of Leiter-this or Leiter-that, of rankings, etc. etc. ad nauseam, is fucking HORSESHIT.

Pseudonymous Grad Student said...

Anon 8:03 --

My (iii) is meant to emphasize that there are programs from which most students never get jobs in academia. That's not to deny the existence of exceptions. There are always people god enough and dedicated enough to buck the odds. But I think advice given to prospective grad students shouldn't be given on the basis of what's possible, given precedents set by various exceptions, but rather, what's the norm. And I take it as a general, rough and ready rule that once you get far enough down the rankings--fairly or unfairly--you're looking at programs that, for the most part, don't see most of their students end up with tt jobs.

Another, related point: (iii) isn't meant in any way to suggest anything about the actually quality of the education someone can get in those programs; rather, it's meant as a rough heuristic for thinking about some of the nastier realities of the job market.

Anonymous said...

well said, hadot. it's easy to lose perspective when you're too close to the trees (or neck-deep in b.s. and anxiety) as grad students typically are. but hopefully everyone here came to philosophy first and foremost because they truly love it. money might be an afterthought...but it's still a very important one in the real world where we are no longer all hunters and gatherers and therefore need to pay our bills...

Anonymous said...

"Philosophy is a way of life. Do it because you love it or don't do it at all. (...) If it's not good enough for you, fuck off. All of this careerist bullshit is a betrayal of philosophy."

I have to say - not to further anger the poster - I think this is a dangerous way of thinking that's unfortunately common in philosophy. Those of us who get jobs should in fact be grateful that we get to spend our lives thinking deeply about questions that excite us. That being said, philosophy is a job. It is not a religious vocation, and it is not a whole life (at least not a whole, good life). I think attitudes like this encourage exploitation of philosophers (since it seems to entail that caring about compensation and quality of life are unworthy characteristics).

Now perhaps he or she simply meant we should all be less bound by the Leiter rankings. Fine by me. But the attitude that worrying about how much one will make, where one will live, whether one will be able to afford a family given the first two - these are important considerations worth thinking and talking about.

James said...

Anon 5:23 asked:

"Does anyone know where people who teach philosophy in community colleges typically receive their training? (Top 30-40 programs? Do they require PhDs?)"

Of course, it's hard to speak in such general terms, but the good community college jobs tend to go to three kinds of people: a) people with PhD's from anywhere (since it is not required to have one and so this looks good); b) people with MA's from the top programs; and c) people who worked hard for little pay at the school for a number of years and got known.

That said, it's an option available for lots of us, and to the anon who asked about deciding whether to go to grad school, it's true as some on here have pointed out that you're probably never going to be famous for your research, but there are real, good paying jobs available at the community college level if you are willing to swallow your pride.

Oh, and they pay well. Though this is surely the exception, I just saw a job posted where the starting end of the salary (for those with little to no experience would start out) was in the high 50's. Of course, you'd have to teach 10 classes as opposed to 4 or 5 or (in some TT jobs) 7 to 8 (which isn't that far from 10), but starting in the high 50's ain't bad.

Anonymous said...

"But I do think the current structure of the humanities in America is writing checks to grad students it's butt can't cash. A lot of people are getting an "apprenticeship" in a profession they'll never work in. But there's no way to just make more jobs, so (IMHO) the right thing to do would be to train fewer grad students. I.e., take (to pick a random number out of my ass) the bottom quarter of PhD programs in philosophy, and turn them into terminal MA programs."

I think this is the nub of the issue. We're simply graduating too many PhD's. In literature it's even worse. Depending on what sort of literature you study, your odds can be 400 to 1 for a single position. A PhD ought to mean that a person has proven their ability to contribute to the field (though admittedly it doesn't reflect teaching skills).

However, I would also complicate this issue a bit, by pointing out that it's not simply that we're graduating too many PhD's, but also that the model of the university has changed significantly. Universities have adopted corporate business models where the aim is to minimize the cost of operations while maximizing profit. We've gotten something of an "edu-factory", where a large amount of teaching is done by adjuncts for little or no compensation. Similarly, class sizes have continuously increased (and often the number of sections taught). Here Arendt's discussions of the Greek conception of labor and freedom in The Human Condition come to mind. Often these adjuncts are quite talented as teachers and thinkers, yet we tend to obscure this by focusing on individuals alone, treating success on the market as purely being an issue of merit, and assuming that the thousands of adjuncts across the country must just lack what it takes to compete in this system.

Frightening things are afoot in the world of higher education that many faculty are unaware of because they're buried in their research and can't imagine that these things would happen (i.e., they believe that administrators share their values or that these values are just common sense). I've sat on committees that keep track of lobbyists and the goings on of legislators, and there are very wealthy lobbyists that either a) want to start broadcasting lectures throughout the state or country *by a single professor*, or b) simply record lectures by a single professor that can then be broadcast again and again. Were this to occur, people would then be hired not to teach but simply to do mass grading (not unlike those that now do grading for the NCLB tests). All of this sounds absurd, of course, but remember that the companies proposing these things are the ones who have the money and who are actively doing the lobbying, and that legislators often have very vague, business based models of education where learning is simply "information exchange and regurgitation". At any rate, I suspect this is one of the reasons we're beginning to see a push towards *assessment based* models of education at the university level, as you need standardization in order to do mass grading efficiently. I find it unlikely that things will occur precisely as the lobbyists would like it, but increasingly universities are run by career administrators who have never stepped foot in the classroom nor done significant research themselves, and who have a very different, testing based, conception of education. It's worthwhile to be aware of these things even if they sound absurd on face.

I realize that this blog is devoted to the discussion of the travails experienced by job candidates, but it seems to me that there are also a number of philosophical questions worth exploring in relation to how the market and academia are structured. These issues are not simply the personal affairs of job candidates, but are also philosophically interesting at the socio-epistemological level, the level of social and political philosophy, and, of course, in terms of ethics. What impact, for instance, does the market have on the sort of research that is pursued today? Do people pursue certain lines of research and ignore others because they're forced to strategize against the market? If this is so, what impact does this have on philosophy itself? Can philosophy still be conceived as a pursuit of wisdom when it is governed by market forces and power structures that govern what gets published and what one must pursue (and no, I'm not making the case that *everything* should be published or that shoddy work should be published)? Is there a sort of class structure at work in academia (here Bourdieu's analysis in Distinction and Homo Academicus comes to mind). We hear some of the tenured and TT track folk on this blog speak as if they believe the market is purely governed by *merit*; however, it seems to me that there are a number of forces that go *beyond* the work of the *individual* alone and that have a decisive impact on whether someone gets a position, *where* a person gets a position, and the subsequent trajectory of a persons research. Somehow these factors seem to get ignored. Research requires leisure or free time. Those pushed into adjunct teaching or TT positions with heavy teaching loads and heavy committee work often end up DOA as they simply do not have the time to do the research and publishing that would enable them to advance beyond their position. Things thus become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It's not that anyone intends to maintain a hierarchy, but this hierarchy nonetheless reproduces itself through real life factors conditioning those laboring in academia. It seems to me that all these extra-individual and extra-philosophical factors are of great interest to the practice of philosophy itself and what this practice is in our current historical constellation.

monkey said...


I have doubts about your apparent assumption that the rankings reliably track the quality of normal placement.

First, notice that this is not a main criterion used to produce the rankings. Notice in this vein that rankings track faculty research quality which is not a good guide to placement or adviser quality. We all know cases of famous great philosophers who are bad advisers or who fail to "go to bat" for candidates.

Second, I know one dept that has a great placement record, but not a high ranking. I suspect there are others. I bet a quick look would reveal further problems (higher schools with worse placement records than a much lower ranked school).

Conclusion: unless you have done the homework to back that advice, I think it is suspect.

**To any one considering Grad schools:

Look at the placement history of the dept - NOT the ranking. If the placement is not normally at places you would like to end up, think long and hard about entering the program. As PGS says, you might be the very good (or lucky) person who breaks the mold, but it is dangerous to count on that. If a department does not have a detailed placement history on the web, be worried unless they willingly supply it to you.

You should also try to get info about specific professors and their studets' placement while on campus (ask the older grad students).

Anonymous said...

"Philosophy is a way of life. Do it because you love it or don't do it at all. (...) If it's not good enough for you, fuck off. All of this careerist bullshit is a betrayal of philosophy."

Sounds kind of like one of those things you hear an ultra-nationalist saying about fellow resident citizens criticizing the country.

Anonymous said...

One of the major factors determining how much teaching graduate students will do in a given program is not its ranking in the PGR but the resources available at that institution generally. This is less true at the very top part of the PGR, I would guess, because really prominent programs can sometimes command more resources from their institutions. But there are certainly schools in the "top 20" where grad students spend a lot of time teaching. One of the major drawbacks of being in such a program, I think, is that it's that much more important to have a clear idea of what area you're going to work in. If you're not spending all of your time teaching, it will be a hell of a lot easier to switch areas (as I did).

This also makes a big difference to the question of whether you view your graduate education in philosophy as professional preparation. For my own part, I determined when entering graduate school that I would not go unless it was something I wanted to do *in itself*. I decided that it was (esp. given the resources available at my program). In retrospect, there were drawbacks of going to graduate school that I was blind to, even despite the amount of time I spent deliberating about it. And while I still think that I would have wanted to go to graduate school if I had not been able to obtain a good job, I also think that my judgment of this might be different if I hadn't been so fortunate when it came to my department's resources.

You might try thinking about this in terms of the following (Platonic-cum-Aristotelian) division of goods: goods of the body and of appetite (anything readily procurable by money), social goods, and intellectual goods. Graduate school provides you with extra opportunity to pursue the last category (again, assuming the situation is reasonably good). The appetitive and financial goods are going to suffer as compared to other choices you have available, but if you're at a place with enough resources AND you aren't tremendously driven by these considerations, you should be able to get through living reasonably well without going into debt. Finally, graduate school can adversely effect the middle class of goods, which I've called "social goods". Don't underestimate this effect, as I did. As compared to others with your educational preparation, native intelligence, and so on, in graduate school you'll almost certainly get less respect than you might otherwise. Of course, it also matters whose respect you want.

hadpt said...

anon 9:24, thanks for proving my point, asshat. It's people like you who have made and continue to destroy philosophy. "Philosophy is a job." Wow. I can't believe you ACTUALLY fucking WROTE that. There are a lot of dead philosophers rolling around in their graves. I'd spit in your fucking face if I could.

Anonymous said...

hadpt - Whereas your carefully reasoned, clearheaded reactions typify the sort of thoughtful analysis on which philosophy thrives?

Anonymous said...

Careerism is killing philosophy.

Those who agree and don't have their spirits broken by the process might consider doing some serious philosophy of education once they're employed.

Anonymous said...

hadpt 1:15,

You are being way too hostile to 9:24. Have a little class. 9:24 was being honest and sincere, and respectful. You, on the other hand, are being a brute. And 9:24seems to live in the real world, unlike you. Go back to your pie-in-the-sky Platonic heaven.

hadot said...

Nlah blah blah. Do yourselves a favor and read up on the history of philosophy - and by that I don't mean the history of philosophical theories and ideas, but the history of philosophy as a human practice. There are surely some sciences which have benefited from institutionalization, professionalization, hyper-specialization, etc. etc. Philosophy isn't one of them. All of the nonsense on this blog is symptomatic of a larger disease which has been killing philosophy for nearly two centuries. We live in what Nehemas calls the "Age of the Professors." The age of the philosophers is mostly gone. We're all a bunch of poseurs.

Un étudiant à Nimes said...

Mr. "Hadot" (et je suppose que vous faites référence à Pierre Hadot, un philosophe français dont les vues sont semblables à vous-même), qu'est-ce que vous attendez?
Chaque fois que je lis la philosophie anglo-américaine je suis frappé par la même pensée: ce qu'est une énorme perte de temps!
Cela me rappelle la scène dans "En Attendant Godot" quand Lucky est faite à "penser" à haute voix par Pozzo. Le résultat est un flux de pédant, de sens des ordures - merde absolue. En vérité, j'ai même hésité à l'appeler la philosophie, parce qu'elle est si stérile, morte, sans âme. Elle ne s'intéresse qu'à des détails futiles, et jamais avec des choses importantes, des choses qui comptent. Il n'ya pas de beauté ou de la vie ou de gravité dans celui-ci. Peut-être que le dysfonctionnement de votre profession est simplement un reflet de la sorte de philosophie que vous pratiquez!!

James said...

Has there been a thread on this blog that had 100 comments before? And if so, was it also based mainly on bickering?

Anonymous said...

I believe it was the thread on the influence of the rankings on hiring practices. But it didn't get there this quickly.

job market fodder said...

In response to James, see here.

Notice the difference in tone and substance between that thread and this one. Is it just me, or have the comments on this blog become decidedly more bitter and unpleasant post-APA?

Part of this has to do with the waiting game we're all playing right now, coupled with feelings of rejection and despair. I myself have found this period to be far more anxiety-inducing than early/mid December while I was waiting for interviews. My options then seemed far greater than they are now.

So let's be a bit more reflective, people. With its characteristic irreverence and self-deprecating wit, I'd always found this a useful and cathartic forum for letting off steam. Sure, we deserve an outlet to vent, but I'm not sure some of the feelings currently voiced on this blog are healthy.

James said...

Anon 4:30, you're right, that one took 7 days and ended on 100. This one is within the 2nd day and past it.

But of course, Fodder, you're right too: it's only because of extreme bitterness that it has gotten this high this fast.

In a way it's sad, but ain't it also kinda fun? Watching the meaningless squabbles of others is a guilty pleasure, at least until they start doing their fighting in French. Now who does that serve?

Anonymous said...


I would suggest taking a more, erm, philosophical attitude about the flaws you see in departments of philosophy. First, there was never any reason to expect that philosophy as a way of life would find a friendly home in the academy. Second, even if that's incorrect, philosophy as a way of life won't be killed by the professionalization of the academic discipline of philosophy--it will just happen outside the discipline (or inside it, but only per accidens). Second of all, even if that's incorrect, your anger at the phenomenon is helping neither you nor others. Perhaps you would benefit from revisiting the writings of Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius.

Anonymous said...

no one has answered the question, what does society owe a phd who has slaved away that last 5 years of their life?

Anonymous said...

Society in general owes them nothing.

advocatus diaboli said...

Presumably "a student in Nimes" can read English, so why doesn't he/she write in it?

Anyway, let me see if I got this right:

"Mr 'Hadot' (and I suppose you are referring to Pierre Hadot, a French philosopher whose views resemble your pwn), what do you expect? Whenever I read Anglo-American philosophy I am struck by the same thought: what an enormous waste of time! [a reference to Wittgenstein??] It reminds me of the scene in "Waiting for Godot" when Lucky is made to 'think' aloud by Pozzo. The result is a flow of pedantic, senseless garbage - absolute shit. In truth, I hesitate to call it philosophy, since it is sterile, dead, without spirit. It only concerns itself with trivial details, never with important things, things that matter. There is no beauty or life or seriousness in it. Perhaps the dysfunction of your profession is simply a reflection of the kind of philosophy you practice!"

Ouch. Hey "etudiant," even if what you say about Anglo-American philosophy is true, please understand that not everyone who studies philosophy in America studies Anglo-American philosophy. My guess is that someone with "Hadot's" views is probably NOT doing hardcore analytic M&E. Just a suspicion. (He also mentions Nehemas, who has a somewhat amusing quote somewhere about how Daniel Dennett [or Paul Churchland or someone like that] would never give up his life in defense of reductive materialism, and that this is what distinguishes contemporary [analytic?] philosophers from the noble 'philoi sophias' of antiquity.)

I'm very sympathetic to Hadot's point of view, by the way, though I agree that he's letting his anger/frustration/disillusionment get the better of him. Not very becoming of someone who views philosophy as a "spiritual practice" (as opposed to the dude who was prattling on about philosophy being a job, and how people who see it as anything other than a job are pervious to exploitation. LOL.)

I think one's job = what one does in order to make a living. If you think about it, the universities and colleges are mainly paying us to teach, not to philosophize. Our departments may force us to philosophize for the sake of RETAINING our jobs, but let's face it - our JOBS qua employees of educational institutions are primarily TEACHING JOBS. Our "research" has little relevance outside the profession, which itself is a mostly fictional entity and arbitrary entity that would cease to exist without the implicit financial/institutional support of the colleges and universities.

If this is true, then my "job" is something other than "professional philosopher." It's something more like "university professor" or "instructor of philosophy" or whatever. Being a philosopher IS more of a vocation, whether we think of it in terms of living a certain way or belonging to a certain extra-institutional community (i.e., the "profession") or whatever. I think one can be a philosophy teacher without being a philosopher...

White Chocolate said...

Anon 5:48

Apparently, the profession owes us nothing and has nothing to give us. When I was an undergraduate I was told, warned, cautioned, et cetera that I should only go to grad. school if there was nothing else I would rather do. I went. I received my stipend. I TA'd like a good boy. Thereafter, I started teaching my own courses at my home institution, and since the funds were deficient i started moonlighting elsewhere in the city. I taught nine different courses last year, and six the previous year. I'm behind on my diss. by at least two years. My friends who were undergrads when i started my Ph.D. now have homes and new cars. At least I have new books, right? Janaway's Beyond Selflessness is my new BMW.
Unfortunately, I cannot teach to the lowest common denominator. So i spend an inordinate amount of time on my syllabi, making sure everything is perfect. I spend too much time choosing my books. They have to be the right books--or else--or else I am failing my students. Blah, blah, blah.

But you know what? Every morning I wake up I am excited that I am studying philosophy (not quite bold enough to call myself a philosopher). I love philosophy. So with my mediocre students (i love them too), unfinished diss. (i'll finish it this year come hell or high water), and a disgruntled adviser (he'll be pleased at the end), I am a lifer in this game. As 50 says, do philosophy or die trying. Ummm, a tt job would be nice though. ha,ha!

Anonymous said...

I have no connection to LSU, but since no one from there has posted, I'll take a stab at guessing the answer. It's probably like the other schools that have January deadlines: they don't see the need to fight for the folks who will be hot stuff at the APA. Wait until the flyouts start, then do their own cutting down among the many good candidates who are left. The ABDs and recent grads who got snubbed will be more modest, and the in-hands will have a better feel for where they stack up against the competition. Also, I think (though this is just an impression) that more schools are giving up the conference interviews. So maybe you should take this as a sign that LSU is cutting-edge and savvy.

Regarding the post in French, shouldn't it be M. Hadot rather than Mr. Hadot?

outis said...

PGS: "But there's no way to just make more jobs, so (IMHO) the right thing to do would be to train fewer grad students. I.e., take (to pick a random number out of my ass) the bottom quarter of PhD programs in philosophy, and turn them into terminal MA programs. But that's a rant for another time."

I was with you on the first sentence, but your solution is more magic than policy, whatever its merits. As some of this discussion has indicated, there's no one good metric for ranking schools in relation to this specific problem. For example, comparing placement records requires a secondary ranking of program quality, as the PGR provides, and one for the relative merits of different kinds of jobs. A more practicable response would be to ask institutions of all calibers to each train fewer students, especially those with prima facie poor placement records. I assume here that it is possible to pick out some of the worst offenders, but again, nearly every school seems to admit students with next to no shot of finishing the PhD, let alone getting a job.

The APA could publish a document which lists PhD programs in alphabetical order (a ranking based on a semi-arbitrary metric would be contentious and unnecessary) along with their absolute, unadulterated, raw admissions and placement data beyond the simple completion rate or time to PhD or a list of their most-successful candidates, including how many students

were admitted for the PhD
finished the PhD at that program
finished the PhD elsewhere
finished the PhD in the time prescribed by the program description (n years)
finished the PhD in more than 2+n years
left the program ABD
left the program with an MA
found permanent academic employment [2-yr, 4-yr] x [T-T, non-T-T] x [within 2 years of receipt of PhD, within 5]
found permanent non-academic employment/left the profession
enrolled in a graduate program in another discipline

The APA should ban institutions who don't provide this data from advertising in the JfP. The institutional burden shouldn't be great, since programs should keep tabs on their current and former students anyway. I'm sure this has already been suggested, but PGS' point that decent, navigable data online for even a handful of departments is hard to find makes me think that this is due to willful negligence of the well-being of their (prospective) indentured labourers. The APA has a responsibility to the profession to make this data public.

James said...

Outis makes some great points, but I think instead of banning non-cooperative schools, the APA might instead consider putting an asterisk next to their names... that seems to have stopped more serious transgressions, right...??

Mr. Zero said...


I like your idea. Of course, it will never work: the APA is almost completely impotent and refuses to wield what little power it does have.

It would be nice if the Leiter Report itself were based on data like this, rather than baseless, self-reinforcing opinions about whose reputations are awesome and whose aren't.

Anonymous said...

Although I am not crazy about the Leiter reports, it does seem a bit ridiculous to call them "baseless" (or based on baseless opinions....I assume that baselessness is transitive such that if Leiter reports are based on baseless opinions then they're baseless).

Anonymous said...

"So maybe you should take this as a sign that LSU is cutting-edge and savvy."

C'mon, it's LSU!

Mr. Zero said...

I say the Leiter report is "baseless" because its methodology is to ask a bunch of people, almost all of whom attended grad school at top-10 programs and now teach at top-50 programs, what the overall research-related reputations of the top 50 departments are. But of course, reputations can be undeserved, and no attempt is made to correct for this or to connect the reputations to actual research activities.

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a widget that ranks programs according to the percentage of faculty who published a book last year; published journal articles last year; and whose work was cited in journal articles last year. This comes much closer to tracking actual research and is much less nebulous and bullshit as "reputation for research." Also, these rankings look really, really different from the Leiter rankings.

I strongly suspect that the Leiter report is self-perpetuating. It seems to me that, over the past 7 or 8 years, very little has changed with respect to the overall rankings, even though the rosters of the various ranked programs have changed wildly. I've seen some top-10 programs hemorrhage faculty while retaining at least top-20 status, while departments at the lower echelons seem stuck there no matter what they do.

Also, the "research reputation" of a department or of one's advisor, or even the actual research productivity is of dubious value to its Ph.D. students. The ability to train Ph.D. students as philosophers is of far greater importance, as is an ability to find jobs for the new Ph.D.s.

That's why I think the Leiter rankings are baseless.

outis said...

"[T]he APA is almost completely impotent and refuses to wield what little power it does have."

Sure, there's more than a little magic involved this way, too. However, I would like to think that the APA still consists of individual philosophers whose moral instincts -- I assume here that they are pragmatically utilitarians and not Kantians or what-not -- could be appealed to if there is enough of a hue and cry. The advantage of going through the APA is that they control the job market in a way no other institution does, and that these individual philosophers could be convinced to act, arguably, against the baser interests of their departments and for the good of some abstract group like 'the profession', or better yet, 'poor suffering graduate students' in their capacity as APA officers/members, something that is unlikely if they see themselves involved in this process qua members of those departments and are reminded of their duty to dragoon fresh crops of the unwitting.

Anonymous said...

' "So maybe you should take this as a sign that LSU is cutting-edge and savvy.' C'mon, it's LSU!"

I did say "maybe."

But on a more serious note: I've gone to well-known schools in big Eastern cities, and I know the appeal to rejecting everything in the heartland. But I've also been to some schools in the heartland, and some people would be surprised to learn that quality of life can be very good in some places you'd never think about if you grew up in New York or Washington. And the quality of faculty, and even instruction, can also be quite good at these places. So I'm giving the benefit of the doubt to LSU, despite my own unexamined and unwarranted prejudices about the Gulf Coast. (Note that lack of warrant for a belief is irrelevant to its truth status.)

Anonymous said...

It's clear that the Gourmet Report and the Chronicle list are simply measuring different things. The PGR measures the reputation of departments among the most reputed departments. If it's taken merely to measure that, then it does a great job. If it's taken to measure the reputation of departments among the whole profession, it might be less reliable. If it's taken to measure graduate teaching, placement, and so on, it's probably unreliable. But reputation among the most reputed departments is a valuable measure. It describes an important social reality, if nothing else (and I don't think it's nothing else).

The Chronicle list does something very different. It measures pure numerical research output. It doesn't measure quality of research directly, although there is some attempt to get quality in there by measuring not number of publications but number of citations by other people. But it doesn't factor in which citations are by good people or by mainstream people or anything like that. You could have a whole fringe group all citing each other at unusually high frequency, and it would artificially elevate the rankings by that measure. In fact that's what a lot have argued has happened with that measure. Some of this depends on how you count applied ethics and other fringe sub-disciplines.

I happen to think applied ethics is very important, but I also think a lot of people writing in it aren't as good as in other fields that are viewed as more central (and thus have better standards for publication in better journals). There are a lot more places to publish applied ethics, and there are a lot more applied ethics publications than there are in phiolosophical logic or space-time metaphysics.

So it's very hard to be sure what the Chronicle list is even measuring. It's a different kind of popularity, one that's less elitist but also one that has much lower standards. I wouldn't call it more objective, for sure, but it does pretend to be more objective because it uses numbers without on its face making it obvious that the decisions about what numbers to use already display a whole bunch of false assumptions.

Look at the faculty for the departments at the top of the Chronicle list that aren't in the Leiter rankings at all. For most of those schools, you probably won't have heard about most of the faculty unless you work in their field. This is probably true of the bottom half of the Leiter rankings too, so that's no sign of not deserving being in the Gourmet list. But the top ten departments in the Gourmet report aren't like this. You'll have heard of most of the department even if you're not in their field, haven't read their stuff, and maybe even couldn't tell you what specifically they've done. That's an important difference that the PGR measures pretty well even if it isn't always perfect (e.g. one might argue that some of the best of the Chronicle list departments should be at least in the Gourmet Report).

Mr. Zero said...

Anon 5:57

I agree with you that the Leiter Rankings and the Chronicle Widget measure different things. And I agree with you that the Chronicle Widget is a deeply imperfect tool for measuring what it measures.

I disagree with you about whether the PGR does a great job of measuring what it measures. If you want to do a survey, and you want the results to be meaningful, you can't just ask the same people every time. The sample has to be random so that it will represent the population at large, and there's no reason to think that Leiter's sample is or does. Look at the list. They all went to and teach in highly-ranked departments. And they're selected by recommendation by other people who already participate, so that's a problem, too.

Your final paragraph suggests a further problem. Suppose you look at a list of NYU's faculty. You've heard of all these guys. Why? Because of the PGR. You also know that all these guys have great reputations as researchers. Why? Because of the PGR. You know this even if you don't know any details about almost all of these people at all. And then when some nobody joins NYU's department, you're going to assume that he has a great research reputation, too. But somebody who joins Rochester, or Kentucky, or whatever won't enjoy such a presumption. This is why I think the PGR has a self-perpetuating effect.

If it's hard to say what the Chronicle Widget measures, it's doubly hard to say what the PGR measures. Look, I'm not a real professor or anything, but I'm not at all sure I'm capable of rating any department, as a whole, in terms of their research. I could probably say a thing or two about the people who work in my area, but the rest of the people would be unknowns, even if I'd heard of them before. Everybody but the biggest names would require a fair amount of research on my part before I could say how good I think their research is. So, supposing we're rating 50 departments plus 10 also-rans, and supposing that a typical department as 15 or 20 people, that's a huge amount of research. I bet nobody does it. I bet they look at the list, recognize it as NYU or Yale or whatever, and give it a number. And I bet the number is deeply influenced by the fact that the PGR has been a fact of everyday life for philosophers for almost 15 years.

Anonymous said...

I haven't heard of the people at NYU because of the PGR. I've heard of them because professors who have been around much longer than the PGR have selected their papers and books for readings in classes I took and because faculty at NYU have been giving talks at places I've been, talks which have been selected at least in part by people who were around long before the PGR and people who were strongly influenced by people who were around long before the PGR.

Mr. Zero said...

Look. If you're suggesting that the PGR has no influence, or that it doesn't have much influence, you're wrong. It does.

Furthermore, if you're basing your opinion of NYU's current reputation on work produced and opinions formed prior to the PGR's inception, you're making use of some very old news. I'd be very shocked if current opinions of faculty reputation were not closely tied to the rankings. Even on this blog, people talk about their "leiterrific"-ness as a matter of course, as though everyone knows what it means.

Maybe NYU was a bad example. Do you have an opinion about Arizona State? Why is it ranked at 44, when Boston University is ranked at 50? Why is South Carolina just an honorable mention? Why isn't Vanderbilt on there at all?

Just to be clear, I wonder why you'd care about research-oriented reputations of faculty when choosing a grad school. I was more interested in the quality of training I'd get, and whether I'd get a job afterwards. I was interested in the first factor only insofar as it was correlated to the other two, and the PGR itself admits that this correlation is poor.

And, if you were interested in the research-oriented reputations of the faculty, why wouldn't you be much, much more interested in the actual quality of the research? Maybe I'm a weirdo, but I find myself more interested in the actual quality of research than in the quality of the reputation of the philosopher who produced it.

Anonymous said...

Look. If you're suggesting that the PGR has no influence, or that it doesn't have much influence, you're wrong. It does.

That's not even remotely what I'm saying. Of course it has influence, and it can have significant influence. It greatly affects which departments the best students end up at. It partially influences how younger faculty think about the relative strengths of programs (but I listed other things that are significant influences as well).

What I was arguing wasn't the irrelevance of lack of influence of the PGR. My point was that we've heard of top philosophers for reasons that were true about why people had heard of top philosophers long before there was a PGR. The main way certain names get seen as top is via the selection of papers and books for reading in graduate programs and the selection of who you've seen or heard about giving talks where. You don't need to know a thing about the PGR to get a sense of who is good in fields you know something about. I certainly didn't when I was applying to grad school 12 years ago. I knew some of the top names in the fields I knew the most about, and I could look at certain top departments' lists of faculty and see that they had some good people. If I hadn't seen the PGR during grad school, my list of who I thought were top figures wouldn't be a lot different from what it is, because that list is based on the people whose work I thought was good and the people whose work my professors thought was good.

It's at the lower end that the PGR is much less reliable and is indeed dependent on the biases of the rankers. Philosophy of religion, applied ethics, philosophy of race and gender, and other niche areas that don't get a lot of attention from those outside the field do attract some excellent philosophers who largely get ignored. William Rowe is a brilliant philosophers who pretty much only does philosophy of religion. In a sense it's ok to ignore him to the extent that people who don't care about philosophy of religion don't bother to read his work, but in another sense it's stupid to ignore it if you're not concerned about mere reputation but are concerned about good philosophy and good training of students. The same is true of Tommie Shelby (to mention someone whose name has come up on this blog recently). He's excellent at what he does, and most philosophers pay little attention to what he does.

As to why someone would care about research reputation, the issue that's most pertinent is whether you can land an adviser who will be viewed as excellent in your field by search committees. The PGR does pay attention to things relevant for that, even if it's less reliable as a guide to what people at teaching schools would think of the reputations of various advisers.